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Torrington’s Gopher Museum still stands tall

By Admin User on November 6, 2020

Torrington’s Famous Gopher Museum is a cult-classic tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors every summer.

The exhibit features taxidermied gophers, propped and dressed-up, acting out scenes from the town’s history. Something even more surprising? As of next summer, the business will be open 25 years.

Behind the museum’s success lies three generations of one family: the Kurtas.

Dianne Kurta is the original curator of the museum. For 22 years she kept it running; interacting with visitors, maintaining the building and even designing gopher exhibits.

In 2018 however, she was forced to step back from the museum due to declining health.

She remains in an advisor role for the attraction, with volunteers helping to keep it open, but when the pandemic struck, the future of the attraction was in question.

That was when Dianne’s daughter decided to step up to the plate.

(Laural Kurta)

Laural Kurta, a current co-director for the museum says she was left with no choice.

“I grew up in the town, we took our kids there when they were small. We know that when something closes in Torrington, it doesn’t reopen. We didn’t want to see that fate befall the museum.”

Joining her as a fellow co-director was her own daughter, Mckinna. The museum’s youngest employee says that there was more to the job than she expected.

“It was weird having to learn all the small details and history of the museum. So many people are interested by it.”

The museum was founded with hopes of bringing more traffic to Torrington and though it did accomplish that, it failed to revitalize the community’s economy.

“At the time that we moved there, it had already declined. But even then, it was a much busier town. There were different restaurants, a comic book store, an arcade. What you see now is a really a shell of what it used to be,” Laural says.

Despite the town’s regression, the exhibit remains in business; even through a pandemic.

The museum will re-open next summer in celebration of its 25 anniversary.



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